The Sugar Quill
Author: CareCrystal  Story: The Diary of the Half-Blood Prince, Part 1  Chapter: 1. Severus Snape and the Philosopher's Stone
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WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS! This story is based on information found in all of the existing Harry Potter books, including Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

A/N: This story features an unromantic view of Severus Snape, which I hope will be tempered by his considerable wit, sarcasm, and ego.

Full credit must be given to the Harry Potter Lexicon, which has a complete and detailed calendar timeline of Harry Potter's years at Hogwarts. Without it, this project would have been far more difficult, if not impossible.

Many thanks to my fantastic betas: Vaughn of Sycophant Hex and Ada Kensington of The Sugar Quill; and to Azazello for her encouragement and insight.

The Diary of the Half-Blood Prince, Part 1

By CareCrystal


29 July, 1991

He has done it again. Albus Dumbledore, eternally benevolent in his sunny, patronising, protective manner has done it yet again.

I am referring, of course, to the Defence Against the Dark Arts position. Once again, I have applied for it; once again, I have been utterly refused. Instead of teaching a subject for which I am superbly qualified, I shall once again be forced to endure another wretched year of teaching Potions.

Of course, I am incomparably qualified to teach Potions as well, but that is quite beside the point. What Dumbledore so cheerfully overlooks are the years that I have endured mobs of unmotivated dunderheads amidst a sea of endlessly exploding cauldrons. I have done this beyond all reasonable expectation, arguably to the point of losing my sanity.

When I accepted the Potions position a decade ago, I took comfort in the notion that it would surely be only a temporary assignment. How was I to know that it would turn into this, a continuing purgatory stretching beyond all imagination, with no escape in sight?

And just who has Dumbledore picked to teach Defence? We found out today in a specially-called staff meeting—he chose a thoroughly mediocre wizard named Quirrell. Yes, that Quirrell: Quirenius Quirrell, that weak, spineless, untalented excuse for a wizard who could not adequately defend himself against a single shrunken head, let alone teach anyone how to fight Dark magic. After returning from a leave of absence, he has once again been offered the Defence job, and to my endless disgust, he has accepted.

When I confronted Dumbledore in private after the meeting, I already knew what he would say. I have heard it before, again and again. “It is not a question of your qualifications, Severus,” he said calmly, “but is rather my own desire to keep you out of harm’s way.”

Out of harm’s way, indeed, I thought. With a straight face, he claims this despite knowing my abilities, if not my secrets. He very well knows that if anyone can handle the Defence position, surely it is I. His reasoning is both specious and transparent; surely even he must realise that! For in fact, he would not hesitate to place me directly in harm’s way if doing so served his purposes.

Teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts was always part of the plan, and to be continually thwarted in this way is maddening. And if I am to be damned to the hell that is this school without hope or purpose, then in my misery let me teach something half-way appealing, at least.

Of course I suspect that there is another reason, the real reason, why Dumbledore denies me the position at every opportunity, whilst hiding his true face behind the veneer of elderly kindness. I do not yet know this reason, but in time, I am certain I will discover it.

Needless to say, I did not mention any of this as we spoke. And as usual, my generalised objections were a complete waste of time. When I requested that he reconsider his decision, Dumbledore was quite unconcerned about my point of view. Instead, he reacted in his usual bland and infuriating way. “The position is cursed, my boy,” he calmly said, as he reached into a jar on his desk. "Toffee?" As I reluctantly accepted the sweet, he began expressing his personal fondness for me, which immediately caused me a great deal of discomfort, as it always does.

At that, I quickly excused myself, which I have no doubt was his true intent.

Today’s staff meeting was not a complete waste of time, to most people’s amazement. Though I deliberately remained silent, there was a good deal of grumbling at our early recall, for it is highly unusual for Dumbledore to gather the staff before the end of August. In my years at Hogwarts, it has happened only once before, for reasons so frivolous that they defy recollection.

But this time, I sensed that something out of the ordinary was at hand, and of course I was absolutely correct.

In the meeting, Dumbledore told us in strictest confidence that the Philosopher’s Stone was currently in some sort of jeopardy. What sort of jeopardy, he would not say, and of course he would not share his sources. But we all know that Dumbledore is the confidant of Nicolas Flamel. Afterwards, as Sibyll Trelawney hovered mistily nearby, McGonagall and I privately agreed that Flamel himself must surely have been the source of Dumbledore’s information.

But the real news is this: “In the near future,” Dumbledore told us, “the Stone will be discreetly removed from its current location and transported to Hogwarts. I need several of you to help ensure the protection of the Stone.”

With that, even the ridiculous Quirrell seemed intrigued and was the first to volunteer to help. “No, no, my dear boy,” said Dumbledore, in an annoyingly pleasant voice (which I actually enjoyed, for once). “Perhaps later. But right now, your hands will be quite full because of your recent return to Hogwarts. After all, you need to be adequately prepared to teach your classes in the fall.”

Adequately prepared to teach your classes! Knowing my superlative abilities, I nearly choked at these words. I made myself stay calm however, for McGonagall was saying something that had caught my attention. “I realise I am revealing confidential information,” she said to Dumbledore, “but Albus, this is now a moot point. As we both know, the Stone is currently being held in the top security vault at Gringotts. What kind of protection can Hogwarts possibly provide that Gringotts, in fact, cannot?”

At this, the headmaster’s eyes began to twinkle in that blasted way they often do. “You forget, Minerva, that I am at Hogwarts,” he replied cheerfully. “And in addition, several of you will design a series of personalised, magical barriers that will surround the Stone. We will begin this project immediately. Once these barriers are combined and in place, no individual will be able to reach the Stone. It will provide a protection even greater than Gringotts, for no one person will have the knowledge or ability to penetrate the different barriers.”

At this, I could not help but involuntarily sit up, though as I did so, I carefully ensured my expression remained unreadable. For it was just as if Dumbledore had thrown down the gauntlet: So, no one can reach the Stone? No one will have the knowledge or ability to penetrate the barriers?

I had to restrain the urge to sneer at the very notion. Clearly, Dumbledore has forgotten that I am, after all, the Half-Blood Prince.

31 July, 1991

Just as I anticipated, it did not take me long. Most people are simply incapable of logic, you see. It is stunning to realise the inability of witches and wizards to use simple reasoning. And as annoying as this often is, it is also something for which I am deeply grateful, at least from time to time. Though tiresome, I recognise that these incompetent fools only make me look that much better. And at times like these, they also tend to make my job much easier.

In this case, I’m referring specifically to the barrier I created for the Philosopher’s Stone. It took me little more than a day to complete. I created a clever logic puzzle, wrote it obliquely in verse form, then added my own special touch: a generous dose of personally-designed poison. If the enemy solves the puzzle incorrectly— and they will— chances are excellent that they will drink the poison and immediately die an excruciating death.

I tell you, it is times like these that I almost like this job.

The useless Quirrell may have been the first to volunteer, but (not surprisingly) I was the first to deliver actual results, interrupting the headmaster as he sat alone in his office, wasting time as he so often does, idly toying with pieces upon a wizard's chess board.

“Come in, my dear boy, come in!” he said. “What a delightful surprise on a busy day— I thought you were Minerva.”

Busy? I thought, as I watched him and silently marvelled at his endless capacity to while away the hours with useless distractions. Of course, I did not let my thoughts show. “I am here to deliver the barrier I created for the Philosopher's Stone,” I said politely.

The headmaster was delighted when he saw my efforts, needless to say. “Once again, you have proved your loyalty and worth,” he said. I fought the temptation to feel pride like a fool as a knight on the chess board attacked an unlucky pawn. “We shall set your barrier in place immediately after we receive the Stone. Well done, Severus—very well done, indeed!”

I confess that it nearly made up for yet another annoyance that I neglected to mention in my entry two days ago. McGonagall's arrival into Dumbledore's office brought it to mind, and I quickly made my excuses so I could write it down. During the staff meeting, McGonagall mentioned that Harry Potter, the ridiculous Boy-Who-Lived, had not yet responded to his Hogwarts letter.

My immediate, unspoken reaction was, So?

“Many letters have been sent to several addresses,” she continued. “I need not remind you that we must have his response within two days. There can be no exceptions, not even for Harry Potter.”

Suddenly, I felt the strangest, most unfamiliar feeling. Upon reflection, I believe it was hope, although I cannot be sure.

Whatever I felt, it did not last long. Predictably, Dumbledore ordered Hagrid to track down the useless urchin to obtain his response by the 31 July deadline. As the headmaster arranged to meet Hagrid in private to work out the details of his assignment, one could see Hagrid’s chest literally puff up with importance (a remarkable feat, considering Hagrid’s already-substantial size.)

Apparently, the headmaster is determined to ensure that we will be blessed with the little Potter brat in the fall. Now, above and beyond the fact that this child is partly responsible for the wreckage of my life, it is just one more blatant example of the headmaster’s ceaseless efforts to favour a select few and disregard others. How many other brats has he searched out like this? Bloody few, I’m certain. But the son of the precious James Potter? Oh, yes— we will seek him out over land and sea, for he is bloody special. As everyone endlessly natters.

I vehemently hope this is not a prelude of misery to come.


1 August, 1991

Dumbledore summoned me to his office this morning for an emergency confidential meeting. It seems that yesterday, even as I was presenting him with the results of my work, there was a break-in at Gringotts. Specifically, into the security vault housing the Stone.

Of course, I assumed that the Stone had been stolen, but Dumbledore assured me it was safe. “Tell no one,” he said, “but it is already here at Hogwarts.” He then asked me to help him place the barrier I’d created. “It is enough protection for now,” he said, “though I must speak to the other staff members. We need more barriers as soon as possible.”

We agreed that the break-in could only have been the work of a powerful Dark wizard. The question, of course, is who?

With an unreadable expression, he gazed into my eyes, and directly asked me, “Could it have been Lucius Malfoy? Do you have any information on this?”

From the start of this conversation, I’d anticipated this sort of question, and I’d already concluded that no Occlumency was necessary. “I do not know,” I said honestly, “and I have no information at all. But in my opinion, Lucius Malfoy is incapable of breaking into the type of vault in question. He has always used Dark magic for other—ah— purposes.”

Staring intently, he asked, “If he is not capable, who is?”

“I am,” I admitted, somewhat reluctantly.

“You were with me when the break-in occurred,” he said, almost impatiently. “Is there anyone else? Anyone at all, no matter how unlikely...?”

At this, I paused. “Well,” I replied, “of course, there is always the Dark Lord himself.”

We stared at each other for a long moment. “Thank you, Severus,” he replied softly. “That is very helpful.”

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